Madison’s Abby Ferguson (32, above) reaches to take the ball away from Eastern’s Caylee Graves during the Cubs’ scrimmage against the No. 4-ranked team in Class 2A at home on Saturday. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Madison’s Abby Ferguson (32, above) reaches to take the ball away from Eastern’s Caylee Graves during the Cubs’ scrimmage against the No. 4-ranked team in Class 2A at home on Saturday. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
The 2019-2020 Indiana girls high school basketball season kicks off this week and all four area teams are looking to take major strides heading into the new year. Here’s a look at the four schools:

Madison Cubs

Madison finished 11-14 a year ago but with the bulk of the roster returning, a resurgence is on the horizon for the Lady Cubs when the season kicks off this week.

The Cubs saw success against tough competition throughout the summer and the goal now is to capture the team’s first winning season since 2015 when Madison finished 16-8.

“We have a good crew coming back,” second year head coach Sonja Bowyer said. “Our confidence is up and we spent the summer developing some different skills. We are just seeing what we have but we now have a year together under our belt and I’m excited to see what this team brings every night.”

Madison returns a full arsenal which includes its top two leading scorers in Jade Nutley and Paige Young but the supporting cast has developed, giving the Cubs much needed depth. Both newcomers and returners to the varsity roster are expected to contribute in big ways.

“We have a group that is looking forward to rising to the occasion,” Bowyer said. “We have a crew of guards that can play fast and some inside players that are smart and know the game. We can throw several different combinations out on the floor this year.”

Madison opens on Thursday at home against Charlestown.

Shawe Hilltoppers

The Hilltoppers will be without graduated leading scorer and Madison Courier Player of the Year Kate Grote, but Shawe is optimistic that its young roster can fill the void as the season progresses.

Terry King begins his second season as coach with four returning varsity players but does welcome three freshmen to the fold, giving Shawe a unique blend that is anticipated to grow as the year goes along.

“We have 14 girls in our program right now and they are all girls that want to learn the game,” King said. “We have good athletes but we are still teaching the game. Perhaps early on we may take some lumps but we feel like we will be competitive as the year goes.”

Shawe will have a physical presence inside with senior Grace McAllister and sophomore Lina Leatherman while Phoebe Grote and Abigail Hill will take on bigger roles in the backcourt. That experience will play a big role as the team navigates itself early on in the year.

“We are better where we were this time last year,” King said. “With Kate (Grote) gone we need a little more out of everybody. Our returners have really picked it up at practice and our freshmen bring some aggressiveness to the floor. Our effort is there but we have to stay focused.”

Shawe opens on Tuesday night at home against Lanesville.

Southwestern Rebels

The Lady Rebels lose 1,000-plus point scorer Abby Ralston and a total team effort will be the theme for Southwestern girls basketball.

Devin Brierly enters her third season as head coach and Southwestern is working toward being a competitor. While the game may not be perfect in November, the ultimate goal is to be a threat by the end of 2019 and when 2020 rolls around.

“We are a work in progress,” Brierly said. “The kids are catching on quickly with the concepts that we throw at them but we are just now finally getting our whole team together. I’m optimistic about this team.”

Despite Ralston departing via graduation, Brierly does have several players back with varsity experience including Ellie Foley, who returns after suffering an early season-ending knee injury last year. The roster is deep which bodes well for the Rebels, which will need everybody to contribute in order to put together a successful campaign.

“It’s no secret we lack size but we can make up for it with our quickness,” Brierly said. “Most of our varsity players have experience and that will be to our benefit. We can play a fast paced game and can apply pressure on the defensive end. It’s going to take our whole group to go out and win a game but it’s a group with great chemistry.”

Southwestern opens on Friday at Henryville.

Switzerland County Pacers

A young Pacer squad went through growing pains during a 12-12 campaign but a group that finished as Class 2A Sectional 45 runner-up now has Switzerland County setting goals for a championship one year later.

Switzerland County returns several key players and is expected to be a front runner for both an Ohio River Valley Conference championship and a sectional title.

“I’ve coached for 20 years and now three years as a head coach and this group goes right up there with some of the best teams I’ve been around,” Pacer head coach Mark Boggs said. “These kids come in ready to go and it’s refreshing to know the effort is always going to be there. Our older kids are doing a great job of teaching the game to our younger kids. It has been a great two weeks of practice.”

The Pacers return leading scorer Aleiah Ragsdale, who is 48 points away from 1,000 career points, and who will aid in the team’s goal of improving upon an offense that averaged just 44.3 points per game. But she won’t be alone. Several players have used the offseason to improve on the offensive end and Boggs says he is hopeful for a boost on the scoreboard.

“Our goal is 50 points per game,” Boggs said. “We feel like we can be quick and get up the floor. We hang our hat on defense but we want to score more. The pieces are in place and we just have to stay healthy and keep grinding. Watching our kids make a huge jump has been an eye opener.”

Switzerland County opens the season on Nov. 12 at South Dearborn.